When Frances Newton was executed in Texas Wednesday for shooting her husband and two children 18 years ago, she became the third woman -- and first black woman -- to be put to death here since executions resumed in 1982. "Strapped to the death chamber gurney and with her parents among the people watching," the AP's Michael Graczyk reported, "she declined to make a final statement, quietly saying "no" and shaking her head when the warden asked if she would like to speak."
Her motive for murder? Three weeks before the murders, Newton secretly bought $50,000 life insurance policies on herself, her husband and her daughter (apparently the murder of her other daughter was a freebie.) She named herself as beneficiary and admitted she signed her husband's name, but only to prevent him from discovering she had hidden money to pay for the policies.
No matter how ones feels about the death penalty, we kept our promise to Frances Newton. The arguments over capital punishment will likely be settled to everyone's satisfaction the day after we agree about abortion ... which is to say, probably never. We simply won't agree as a culture on who, when, where, how and why a human should be executed ... the usual debate when death and government intersect.
But when Frances Newton committed her crimes, she knew society had promised its severest consequence. A promise kept, in this case, is about the best shine one can put on a grim event.
AP's Michael Graczyk is a veteran of the Texas Death House, covering most executions in Huntsville in the past 20 years. He's probably spent more time there than a lot of stone-cold Texas killers. Far from being lurid and voyeuristic, his reporting has always been sensitive, fair and descriptive without being sensational. It's a tough job to be the eyes and ears of the public in a place where the public would rather not go.